Leading syndicated radio host, Warren Ballentine issued a call to action, deeming Friday, September 4, 2009, “National Community Reinvestment Day.”
The national plan urges individuals from all across America to open an account with Black-owned banks in their communities on the same day. Ballentine announced that the mission of the campaign is to galvanize consumers, business & thought leaders, social groups and individuals all across America to actively get involved in empowering and transforming their own communities.
Through active partnerships with his listeners, sponsors and supporters, Ballentine uses the power of media and communications to promote change and positively influence the lives of others and continues to be a leading voice on issues and challenges facing Black America. Continuing to spotlight issues such as racial injustice, financial literacy & economic prosperity, criminal justice, and other topics that promote social change, “The People’s Champ” recently talked to Hip-Hop Wired about his campaign for African-Americans to start investing in Black Banks.
HipHopWired: So what’s the premise behind “National Community Reinvestment Day?”
Warren Ballentine: It’s about economics. The reason the Civil Rights Movement was able to jump start and spark so quickly was because they stopped riding the busses. When they stopped riding the busses, they stopped making money for the city and when the city started losing that money, what did they do? They caved in. So I looked at it from a historical point of view and where we are today and how do we get some leverage.
HipHopWired: What are you calling for people to do during that day?
Warren Ballentine: I want people to put some money in a Black owned bank. You don’t have to leave your other bank. You can put $10, $20, $100, whatever you want. But I’m trying to get people in the mindset of targeting their money. We don’t target our money and I’ll give you a perfect example. In Chicago where I grew up, they’re zip codes, about 100 there but one in particular is a poor zip code and maybe one of the poorest in the country. Last year they spent $24 million on lottery tickets. Imagine if they would have saved that money for one year and took that $24 million and at the end of the year they could have had a better education for their kids, paid off all their homes. All of them would have been debt free as far as home ownership. They could have gotten more police in their communities. So I’m trying to get us in the mindset and really get the culturally conditioning changed from spending to targeting.
HipHopWired: Now the term Black bank. Many Black people are apprehensive to just that term alone. Unfortunately , we’ve been conditioned that white is better and always right when from years of experience from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement, we know that is far from the truth yet we stay on that treadmill. How do you break pass that?
Warren Ballentine: I mean the reality is this. We’ve been so culturally conditioned to believe that anything you do with Black people is wrong that it’s ridiculous. Even when I was actively practicing law, these boys would catch cases and the first thing they run and do is go hire a white boy or Jewish lawyer and then when they run out of money they come to me and I save them.
Now it’s the same thing with these Black banks. Let’s take One United Bank out of L.A. and Boston and also one of the hugest banks on the Internet. This bank was offering the highest interest rate in America last year to anybody who deposited in their bank. Well this bank is FDIC approved. It has the same standings as a Chase Manhattan bank but we as African-Americans are not told about this so we put our money on what we see on T.V. and hear on the radio. One of the biggest problems that Black banks have and most Black businesses have is advertising. They don’t advertise enough about what they are doing and what they can do in the community and that’s one of the reasons why I’m telling people, “You ain’t got to take all of your money out of all these other banks but put a little bit in the Black bank and see if it works for you.” If it works for you, then move all of your other money over. If it doesn’t, then stay with that. I’m perfectly fine with that but let them show you that they deserve your business (and that their not entitled to it.)
HipHopWired: After that day is over, what’s next and how do we keep it going?
Warren Ballentine: One of the reasons why I’m doing this the way I’m doing it is because I want to show people that they can do it first. Once I show that, then we need to take it to another level. Now we need to be talking about blacking out “Black Friday” which is the day after Thanksgiving and when everybody makes their money in this country as far as sales. Well if we don’t spend no money… we spend over $800 million as a people. We spend more money than anybody else in this country, Black people. If we don’t spend any money on that Friday after Thanksgiving, that’s a major blow to a lot of retailers out here. And if we take that money instead of spending it on that Friday and invest the money we were gonna spend into something else, it changes the whole playing atmosphere at that point.
HipHopWired: But couldn’t that hurt the economy?
Warren Ballentine: Hurt the economy. Come on now, if we gone be real… When America’s catches a cold, Black folks got pneumonia. Hell, we the ones that’s unemployed and been unemployed. Right now the unemployment rate is around 9.8% in this country and for African-Americans it’s almost 18%. It’s almost doubled what it is for everybody else. The economy is not our concern when you really look at it because we’re spending money. It’s the other folks that ain’t spending no money, that’s why the economy is messed up. It ain’t because of us because we’ve been spending all along. It’s because of the other folks.
HipHopWired: What can be done from a saving perspective?
Warren Ballentine: I wouldn’t even say that we need to cut back. I say we need to target, that’s the key. Targeting our money. One of the things that I want people to understand… the community I just told you about out of Chicago that spent $24 million on the lottery. When you break that down in numbers, everybody in that neighborhood spent $5,200 a household. $5,200 a household for the whole year. So $5,200, if everybody would have said that we’ll put $5,200 up, they would have had $24 million to pay off all their homes, get their schools better and make everything better for them. And that’s’ all I’m trying to get people to understand, let’s target our money. When we target our money… you know the old saying, ‘Money Talks, B.S. Walks.’ If we got the money talking, then everyone is gone listen.
HipHopWired: So could the Black banks have helped decrease these mass foreclosures in the housing market?
Warren Ballentine: When you look at what’s going on with the federal banks, that’s another reason we need to look at investing in Black banks. When the subprime industry hit, a lot of Black people qualified for A-Paper loans which means that you qualify for the best of the best loans. But because we were minorities, we were put into subprime loans. And the subprime loans just basically worked in the way where for the first two years, you would be in arm of like a 4% interest rate but it would kick up after those first two years and keep kicking up from then on and you would be up to 9% by the end of the loan. Well when you look at the banks that were doing this… it was the Wells Fargos, the Countrywides, Bank of Americas, Wachovias. So why not take that money from them and put it in the Black banks who would have given us regular mortgages and our homes wouldn’t be devastated and lost at the rate that they’re getting devastated and lost right now.
HipHopWired: How are you spreading the word about this economic agenda?
Warren Ballentine: I’m doing various interviews across the country and I will be down in Orlando but what’s sad about this is I have personally contacted The Tom Joyner Morning Show, The Rickey Smiley Show, and The Michael Baisden Show and have gotten no response from them. And it’s sad that we are like this. Honestly if we all just came together, we could fix a whole lot in our community but the problem is everybody wants to be the chief and nobody wants to be an Indian.
HipHopWired: So what makes you willing to support other platforms though they don’t support yours which makes a lot of economic sense?
Warren Ballentine: For me, it’s not about Warren Ballentine, it’s about us as a people. What I’m doing, I ain’t trying to be famous or rich, I’m just trying to help my people. If I’m not the one out front, that’s fine with me. I can be a general but in order to be a general you have to be a soldier first. I don’t mind being a soldier because it’s not about the glory for me, it’s about the glory for all. If we all thought like that, imagine what we could get accomplished. Me helping somebody else out on what they’re pushing ain’t a problem to me because I ain’t got to be out front. As long as it is for the good of the people, that’s the most important thing for me.